The world of Ecocity practitioners will once again converge this fall at the biannual Ecocity World Summit. The Ecocity World Summit 2015 will be held October 11-13 in Abu Dhabi (http://www.ecocityworldsummit.com/index.php).
Participants will have an opportunity to learn about and contribute to the International Ecocity Framework and Standards, also known simply as “Ecocity Standards” (www.ecocitystandards.org). These have been under development for many years and have also been featured at past world summit events (e.g., 2011 in Montreal, Canada and 2013 in Nantes, France).
The ultimate goal of developing Ecocity Standards is to enable cities to assess whether they operate in balance with nature and to help inform and track progress towards this goal. With a recent proliferation of urban sustainability indicators and standards (Joss 2012), distinguishing what actually constitutes an ecocity is important now more than ever.
The conference themes at Ecocity World Summit 2015 are:
- urban design for liveability and resilience,
- urban systems, footprints and metabolism,
- social systems that facilitate ecocities, and
- cities in balance with nature
These themes loosely reflect the four categories of conditions that comprise the Ecocity Standards:
- urban design characteristics,
- bio-geophysical conditions
- socio-cultural features, and
- ecological imperatives
What distinguishes the Ecocity Standards from most other urban sustainability assessment initiatives is a focus on the total urban ecosystem area that is essential to the city’s operation (http://www.ecocitystandards.org/ecocity/).
Most assessment initiatives focus on the physical entity of the city, defined by its geographic boundary. However, this omits the ecologically productive ecosystem area(s) that lay outside the city that are needed to supply the energy and resources and absorb the wastes associated with the daily livelihoods of urban dwellers. Therefore, a defining feature of the Ecocity Standards work is that it views the city in its bioregional and global ecological context. This means that some of the conditions within the Ecocity Standards are context specific and some are universally applicable.
For example, all people who live within global ecological carrying capacity, defined as one-planet living for the Ecocity 1 level, have an ecological footprint that is no larger than 1.7 global hectares per capita (WWF 2014). This is a universally applicable standard. However, the amount of water each person consumes is determined by how much water is available within their city’s specific water shed. This is a context specific standard. Although clean and safe water remains an important condition, the amount of water that can be consumed per capita is determined largely by the quantity of freshwater that can be accessed without reliance on chemicals and fossil fuels (e.g., for treatment and conveyance) and without negatively impacting the immediate biological needs of indigenous flora and fauna. (For more information see p. 10/12 of the IEFS Brochure for description of the Clean and Safe Water condition and p. 32/34 for the Earth’s Carrying Capacity condition: http://www.ecocitystandards.org/brochure/).
This year’s Ecocity World Summit conference also features a workshop dedicated to the ongoing development of the indicators and targets that establish the standard of measurement in all fifteen conditions comprising the Ecocity 1 Level. The focus is on confirming the indicators and targets (i.e. the measureable data comprising the standard) for each of the fifteen conditions. Anyone interested in advancing this work is encouraged to come to the conference or join the conversation online through Ecocity Builders social media or posting responses to this Ecocity Insight post via the Ecocities Emerging e-newsletter website.
Joss, S. ed. (2012) Tomorrow’s City Today: Eco-City Indicators, Standards & Frameworks. Bellagio Conference Report. London: University of Westminster.
WWF (2014) Living Planet Report: Species and Spaces, People and Places. Gland, CH: World Wide Fund for Nature. Available online at: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/